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Food hygiene starts with floor cleaning

The contamination caused in any food is microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, yeasts and mould fungi. They develop and spread rapidly wherever they find suitable breeding grounds in retail outlets and in the food production industry. Thus, the aim of the food industry, retail managers and supervisors is to prevent the spread of harmful organisms or any kind of dirt, by observing the strictest standards of hygiene.

European Union Regulation 852/2004, which is legally binding throughout the food industry and for all food retailers, shows how seriously legislators take compliance with hygiene rules. The Regulation, which came into force in January 2006 and is a recast of Directive 93/43 EEC, stipulates that only foodstuffs produced in accordance with Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) principles, which lie at the heart of Regulation 852/2004, may be imported into and traded in the EU. Specifically, this means that food business operators must analyse food hygiene hazards in any part of their company (including incoming goods, production and delivery areas) and identify critical points for controlling food safety. They must then establish critical limits of acceptability at the critical control points and establish testing and monitoring procedures and corrective actions in the event of deviations. Companies must also verify whether their control system is functioning as intended. In practice, they do this by recording the monitoring of critical control points and comparing the results periodically with the target state. Large companies with a high hazard potential are required to keep suitably detailed records, while in small companies instructions to staff, cleaning schedules and proofs of verification suffice. In addition to companies’ own monitoring of hygiene, responsible authorities such as health agencies and food inspection services are supposed to make random checks for compliance with the HACCP principles.

The HACCP concept was developed back in 1959 by the US Pillsbury Corporation on behalf of the space agency NASA. The company was contracted to produce food for astronauts taking part in a planned moon mission. In developing the special food, which was to be as free as possible of harmful organisms, Pillsbury began by applying the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) methodology that the US military had used for technical applications since 1949. From it the US corporation went on to develop a preventive concept for the food industry. Its findings were first published, jointly with NASA, in 1971 in the form of the HACPP concept. This was subsequently tested worldwide, and in 1993 the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) included the concept in its Codex Alimentarius. The HACCP concept has proved to be a very effective instrument for maintaining food hygiene and is binding throughout the EU on all companies engaged in the production, processing and selling of food.

Another indication of the importance that the HACCP concept has attained in recent years is the ISO 22000 food safety management systems standard initiated by Denmark and drawn up in collaboration between 23 countries. This norm takes account of the realisation that ISO 9001 on quality management makes no specific reference to the HACCP concept and is in this respect inadequate for the food sector. According to ISO 22000, an organisation forming part of a particular food chain must be able to prove itself capable of effectively controlling health hazards arising from production or a particular stage of processing, so that the foodstuffs it takes to market are safe at the time of human consumption.

In view of the norms, standards and regulations relating to the production and supply of safe food and the increasing globalisation of trade, it is now advisable for every business to apply Regulation 852/2004 and the HACCP principles therein.

The specific measures stipulated for business premises handling foodstuffs begin by stating simply that premises must always be kept clean and in good condition. However, to achieve this goal the design and layout of all business premises, plant and equipment must be such as to make them easy to clean and/or disinfect professionally. Attention must be paid to preventing the accumulation of dirt, contact with toxic substances, shedding of foreign particles into food, formation of condensation, or unwanted mould on surfaces. In addition to these provisions, there are special requirements for floor surfaces in areas where food is prepared, treated or processed (except for eating areas). Floor surfaces must be maintained in a sound condition and must be easy to clean and, where necessary, to disinfect. They must be made of impervious, non-absorbent, washable and non-toxic materials.

This means, of course, that companies must have appropriate devices and equipment for cleaning and disinfecting their plant and machinery and premises. The stringent hygiene requirements place correspondingly high demands on cleaning equipment and detergents. Recognising this need, Kärcher developed the self-propelled B 60W scrubber-drier for floor cleaning, a machine that is highly suitable for use throughout the food sector. Suction flow-optimised suction beams, roller and disc brushes enable it to clean both hard and flexible floor coverings quickly and thoroughly, including tiles, marble, structured rubber flooring, linoleum or PVC. It also features adjustable brush contact pressure, roller brush heads for (pre)sweeping and scrubbing, and a brush rotation speed adjustable to three settings. When used with alkaline intensive cleaner and disinfectant cleaner, the cleaning equipment can be set to deal optimally with any type of dirt.

The HACCP principles specify that all objects, fittings, machinery and equipment that come, or could come, into contact with foodstuffs must be kept clean and must be in technically sound condition at all times. This presupposes that they are designed and made so as to minimise the risk of food contamination and that, given their intended use, it must be possible to keep them perfectly clean and if need be disinfect them (if they come into direct contact with foodstuffs). Cleaning of the machine including fresh and dirty water tanks, suction lips, hoses, brushes and suction beam, should be easy to remove and can simply be cleaned with water and disinfectant.

Finally, HACCP requires food production companies to supervise their employees’ work as appropriate and to instruct and/or train their staff in food hygiene. Against this backdrop Kärcher, in collaboration with a microbiology institute, has developed a detailed process instruction for floor cleaning and inspection. In addition, HACCP training sessions for end customers and trading partners is essential. TÜV SÜD has awarded the machine exclusive HACCP qualification for the next three years, as the first machine of its kind on the global market.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points will help everyone in the food industry and food retailers to prevent hygiene hazards so as to guarantee the safety of foodstuffs and those who consume them. A floor cleaning machine is a key element in achieving this goal because, in the final analysis, food hygiene starts with floor cleaning.

Marcel Schoch


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